POETRY – Umang Kalra

Image: Frida Kahlo – The Wounded Deer, 1946

Umang Kalra’s poems have previously appeared in Blue Marble Review, Quail Bell Magazine, VAYAVYA, Esthesia Magazine, and Coldnoon. She has previously served on the Masthead of Inklette Magazine, and is currently involved in a year-long mentorship programme with Doireann Ní Ghríofa for women of colour in Ireland.


I could ingest all of the beauty
in the world, every poem, every
star, and it would spill out of my
orifices like a waterfall tired of
being leached dry by the sun, I
could swallow every last metaphor
on this earth and pretend that it was
written especially for me, that it
would not sound the same without
the lilt of my voice and the twist
of my tongue, but what good is
my tongue when it does not dance
with yours, what good are these
words when they are eaten by an
empty sky, void of all of the magic
that tumbles through your mind.
I have been eating constellations
for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tired
puffy-eyed midnight snacks that
remind me of the taste of your lips
on my skin mixed with the sound
of the moon making love to the
tides – I feed stories to myself and
I make them pretty, I fill them with
butterflies, surgical, botanical pictures,
the colour of my lips on those nights
you spent biting into them in the
shape of all of your memories. I am
sickened, honey pours out of my
lungs, choking, suffocating, my
throat is lined in foreign liquid that
is as sweet as tepid alcohol, I cannot
run at the sight of lovers anymore,
and I cannot run to you – I am a
disaster stranded at the edge of the
sea, watching the waves fold into
themselves in curves that look like us,
bent over and inwards. They are beautiful
and they will drown me – they taste like
the honey in my throat; they taste
like you.



“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat around writing a mystifyingly flat poem that ballooned to life only when I realized to whom I was writing.” – Kaveh Akbar, interviewed by Thibault Raoult for The Georgia Review

you wrote me a poem and I drank it like wine
an oasis grew out of my stomach like a forest
like veins like a fresh wound fighting through
a cotton shirt made of more starch than thread
my fists squeezed shut like my eyes you watched
waiting for my throat to protest you knew I did
not care for alcohol blood traced the veins in my
eyes your fingers unwelcome visitors on my bones
as if we were a piece of art in a museum not two
breathless people learning how to read love poems
without aching for someone different to read them to



I met you in moonlight / the leaves told us
it was autumn but your hands were still
cold from a winter that had already forgotten
our names / your voice rasped and galloped
and stumbled through words that had long
since built homes in your tongue / I asked
you to read to me because your voice felt like
the castles and the trees from the books
I used to read / you spoke of a time when
all of us would be dead and I shook in the
wind / the sky caved open / I squeezed my
eyes shut and found you in my memories /
your voice was just the same but the light
that bounced off of you died a little sooner
after it reached the back of my skull / if I
could I would shove my hand through your
ribs and ask your heart if it loved me / if I
could I would cough up my lungs and pick
each breath apart until the ground resembled
a graveyard for each time I had swallowed
your name only to memorize its taste / the
stars hung above us like fruit / I left you
reading and plucked wildflowers to bunch
together and gift to you / you did not notice

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